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Small gift with pale yellow wrapping paper, tied together with a bright, pink bow

A wise man once said, “God’s got bad gift-wrapping.”

Although you can’t see it right now, the things you’re going through that hurt like Hell will collude together with Providence to create a new path ahead of you. It’s a package of pain, mind you, yet somehow, still a gift.

Sometimes you feel so alone, you dig yourself a little hole and hide there, hoping the pain won’t go with you. But of course, it does. All you want is for life to be the way it was before. For those you held dear to be here. To have full vision, as you did before. To return to the place where life made sense. To turn back the clock to the good old days, when you had the luxury of taking it all for granted. You don’t want magic and miracles. You just want a normal day. Seems like it should be one word, “Normalday” as if it’s a location or destination. A mile marker of the soul that only you can see.

In time, you’ll find a place where a glimmer of grace resides and hunker down there until the sun decides to shine again. You find you’re still covered with prayer from afar night and day, and you see that the world has decided to start turning again. You come in from the cold and walk into the warmth of those who still hold you up and hold you dear and hold you together. 

But wait! This is the best part. This is the blessed part. You say it doesn’t feel like it? No. And it won’t for some time. You’re growing internally, expanding exponentially. You’re building the ability to bear up without knuckling under. To shore yourself up without getting pulled back into the morass of misery.

It’s a long walk to the promised land of “Normalday”, but remember: You will never walk alone. The ones you’ve loved and lost (including who you were in the past) are still with you somehow, and it is never a mistake to risk opening your heart because one day you will lose them.

Let them in. Let them go. Let love remain, even after they’ve gone. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself believe. Even after loss (of loved ones, of limbs, of sight, of jobs, of friends, of money, of “the one that got away”, etc.) there is life. And tomorrow the sun will shine again. You will rise to meet the day and be renewed. And look at you now! You’ve survived the worst of it, stronger at the broken places. Let the normal day begin.

green ceramic mug beside book
Sepia-toned picture of an open Bible next to a coffee mug on a wooden bench. It is situated next to a peaceful body of water that is shimmering in the sunlight.

So I was wondering aloud what the latest ache on my body meant…arthritis? A fissure in a bone? Some kind of new mystery malady that hasn’t yet been discovered and will have to be named after me?!? It could be anything! 

Luckily, I was with my physical therapist, who’s got a good head on her shoulders and her feet firmly planted on the ground. (Let’s explore those phrases for a moment. Who has a bad head on their shoulders and is levitating? I’d like to meet them. Hm. Or maybe I wouldn’t!) 

Anyway, she said, “Always start with the simplest thing first.” So it turns out that I slept funny. Another phrase to explore. Since I consider myself an undiscovered talent in the world of comedy, ladies and germs, I always sleep funny! Ba dum bum. Is this thing on? I’m here all week!

I’ve come to realize that experiencing trauma as a child can imbue your worldview so that you end up seeing catastrophes in every minor event in your life. How’s that for an abrupt change from a light-hearted blog post to an in-depth exploration of the psyche? But so much of life is a combination of light and dark. Joy and pain. 

Somehow, the muscles you tone while lifting heavy burdens are the same ones that help you hold onto what brings you joy. You come to appreciate the people who light you up when they walk into a room. You realize that small comforts (your cat, old movies, fresh-baked muffins) are a big deal. You learn that if you don’t loosen your grip on the injustices you endured, your hands won’t be open to reach for blessings that want to find you.

You have to clench it to carry it. What if just for today, you loosen your grip on it and leave it in Higher Hands? When the past crosses your mind today, just say this: “That was then.” Today, all is well.

Just last night,
the trees shrugged off their leaves
as if to say, We are done. Done,
as we all are, with this
annus horribilis.
Still. Under the piles of russet,
of red and gold and brown, there is a sliver
of silver new hope. Can you see it?
We need a God who can take a spark
so small and fan it, with gentle breath,
into a conflagration of love.
Add your own exhalation,
even if it is only a sigh,
and perhaps we will work up
something to warm ourselves by.
And, with time, others will come,
drawn in from the cold.
Here is our directive:
Fall into winter
with a clash of cymbals:
something new is coming soon.

pink tulips on white vaseToday is my birthday, so I’d like to start by saying…what’d you buy me? I jest, of course. You shouldn’t feel obligated to get me a gift or anything, even though I’m always here, encouraging you and sending good vibes your way. 

Please don’t feel you must buy me a lovely scented candle, a cashmere shawl or make a donation to my 1-800-MISS-RUTH hotline. (That’s not real, by the way. Just jesting again!)

So I turned 55 today — although I’m told I don’t look a day over 54 ½ .😊 I’ve gotten some text and email birthday wishes, which I really appreciate. 

By far, the best gift I could ever ask for, I already have.

It’s taken decades to achieve, but I feel a sense of peace in my soul. 

I’ve got a modest home. A son who watches out for me. Friends I can count on. Projects that interest me. A mackerel tabby who cycles between maniacal and completely inert. Who could ask for anything more?

A friend told me the other day she’d give up one of her pinky fingers to lose weight. She believes her life will be better if the numbers on the scale go down. Less of her (body weight, that is) is the “more” she seeks.

It’s easy to feel guilty for things we haven’t done, like lose weight, finish that college degree, or find a mate. You’re establishing the rule Until I accomplish this one thing, I can’t allow myself to be happy!

The problem becomes a partner, and every time you find a tiny bit of joy, that problem reminds you it still hasn’t been solved. 

Sometimes the more you seek, the farther your goal seems to move away from you. When you look to someone or something else to complete you, you give your own power away.

Really, the “more” you seek is a sense that you’re on the right track. That your life has meaning. Hang your hat on hope and partner with Providence. Stop chasing after that nebulous “more,” and let your good life find you.

You know the one: That insignificant bit of nothing that landed on your back and BROKE EVERYTHING — every last metaphoric vertebrae. That one last thing you just couldn’t stand up to, not on top of a pandemic and civil unrest and a government sliding daily into fascism. Maybe it was a sick kitty (like SueBE’s Cindy) or a co-worker who simply refuses to “get it” (as Ruth has been dealing with). Maybe whatever broke you wasn’t little at all, but the sheer cumulative weight of a year that keeps getting weirder and more apocalyptic by day. (Coin shortage, anyone?)

The only way out is to keep moving, even when it feels performative. In the end, all we’ve got to live on is the promise of God’s grace, washing over us, making us whole again. And that’s not something you can summon at will. But it will come.

Look for it in all the small places,
in flourishes and gestures:
the holding open of a door,
the way someone says, “I’m sorry.”
See the clean white of it shining like
a shaft of sunlight, hitting you with
miracle molecules, hiking your heart
so high, you can only bat at it, a balloon
tugged by wind. All that pulls you down
is illusory. The one real thing is waiting
to spin you out of your shoes and into
a stratosphere bright with possibilities.
Let go. Let God. Your soul knows the way.

white ceramic mug with black liquid on brown wooden coasterIt’s important to get the latest information about COVID-19, but consuming too much negative news can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. Take a break from that continuous flow of “breaking news” and put your mind on good things.

Think about the people in the world who are doing what they can to help frontline workers, right where they are, like the 99-year-old British veteran who walked 100 laps for charity in his own backyard and raised over £500,000.

Or the teacher who walks five miles every day to deliver lunch to his students in need.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the fact that people are realizing that a home is always better with a pet, and now dog and cat adoptions have increased exponentially. Some shelters, like the Chicago Animal Care and Shelter, are reporting that every shelter pet has found a home.

It’s also encouraging that people are reading books again and getting interested in history, like the fact that in 1847, the Choctaw nation donated money to Ireland during the Great famine. Now, some Irish people are sending relief to Native Americans affected by COVID-19 as an homage to that long-ago act of compassion.

It’s also important to remember how to laugh in these heavy times. For an instant mood-lifter, do a Google search, typing in “Do a Barrel Roll” and watch what happens. Now type in the word, “Askew”. Feel like a quick retro game on your computer? Type in “Play Atari Breakout”

So when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the daily news coverage of the pandemic, take care of yourself and step away from it. Find a way to lift your spirits and center your soul again.

[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

I hope that this post finds all of our readers doing well.  I’d say I’m doing well but I’m also losing track of time.  I had no clue how close we are to Easter until right before Lori posted the piece she co-wrote with Krissy, What Hope Looks Like on My Street.

It can be hard to feel the comforting presence of Christ right now.  Me?  I need church.  There’s just something about the sanctuary whether it is quiet and still or filled floor to rafters with soaring music.  Fortunately, our pastor has been recording meditations for those of us at home.  Here is one about Clouds of Hope.

–SueBE

Today marks an auspicious occasion: The first (I hope of many) poetic collaborations between Krissy Mosley (of Visionarie Kindness) and me! Let me tell you a bit about Krissy. See, I write poems; Krissy creates wordscapes. You see her poems. You smell them. You taste them. They take you from the low rumbling of words mumbled in a darkened room to the soaring heights of a gospel anthem. Please do check out her blog!

A word of explanation: Krissy’s words are in bold, mine in italic. You can read the poems separately, or as one, which I believe is the way they were always meant to be.

We taste hope just as the first lizard of the morning sticks out her tongue 
You’d not notice.
It takes, as they say, an eye.

to catch the beauty of the blue-winged dragonfly
Still, spring cannot be contained;
it bursts into bud: daffodils nodding,
blonde and careless, trees shaking down

three-doors down, in a small caddis, vagrant-vacant lot dripping with hunger 
petals, unseasonal flurries. New grass
pokes shyly from the lawn, and smells,
cut, just as it did last summer.

Hope has no fairy tales with rewarding endings 
We are not the same, shaken
as only the most microscopic
menaces can make us. Yet.
Hopes lives in the lives of shattered things 
Nothing can impede the rush to Easter.
The stone rolls away, light as an egg.
destined for rapture, of better things
What lies inside is awaiting us.

close up photo of water lily flowerIn these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s a good time to shore each other up — virtually, of course — and offer the human nutrients of encouragement and inspiration. We can’t see each other in person, but we can still check in. So, how are you?

For those of you who are sick at home with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), our prayers are with you. For the rest of us, hearing about states shutting down and shoppers fighting over toilet paper, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed right now. 

I could tell you not to get stressed, but that doesn’t even seem reasonable. What I will offer is this suggestion: Gather all the facts you can from reputable sources. Do all your due diligence, then take your mind off everything virulent and volatile. That includes viruses, of course, but also people who are trying to amp you up, make you anxious, or otherwise just get on your nerves.

This is a good time to protect all that is precious to you, and remember: The order to shelter in place extends to your soul. Do all the things you can to stay sheltered in a place of peace. Take your mind off the catastrophe as a whole and focus on one thing at a time.

Remind yourself that you’re doing everything you can at this moment. You’re safe at home. Everything is okay where you are. Let it be okay. Don’t go back and check the stats every ten minutes. How many cases are there in my town today? What’s the latest terrifying news? 

Step away from the stress. Sit down and decompress. All will be well and life will go on. We’ll get through this together, and before you know it, the “new normal” will just be “normal” again. 

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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